The Killjoys are all hunting a guy with lots of snark – which Dutch handles effortlessly (though they’re trying to get it for D’avin’s first collar) with added reminders that D’avin can’t just shoot and kill people as a Killjoy. Alas the guy gets himself killed (well exploded) on a security wire. At least it’s a dead or alive warrant. So D’avin has to scrape him up
The whole shenanigans makes Dutch late to meet the awesome Bellus in Leith Market who is fun and snarky. She also has a new warrant from them, direct from the 9 which Dutch is passing on despite Bellus saying they’ve been “voluntold.” Dutch doesn’t want to work for the “inbred fascist nobles” who run the company and think they run everything. This is overheard by Bellus’s guest, Delle Seyah Kendry (an Inbred Fascist Noble). She hears Dutch is the best female Killjoy which Dutch doesn’t let stand – she’s the best Killjoy, period. The highhanded noble wants her to prevent a war
She wants them to take a woman to Kresh – a woman who has rarely encountered men (Delle tells Dutch to keep her “lovers” in check which Dutch is amusing and snarky over, but doesn’t bother to deny).
Some world building, the Nine decide to outsource breeding, having all their children born to surrogates so the women of the Nine families don’t risk themselves in childbirth. Dutch is snarky about how much the surrogates get out of this deal. The woman they’re transporting is carrying the last heir of one of the Nine families – if that heir is lost the other Nine will go to war over the free-for-all for resources and that will be a bad thing. So she wants to heir delivered and with no-one knowing she’s involved so Delle’s family can be seen as neutral in the whole thing
Bonus, they have no idea where the surrogate is (also nifty hint of world building, Dutch has an instrument on display which is usually reserved for female royalty. I have to say this is a liiiitttllle off since Dutch, with her secrecy, is unlikely to keep such an object on display in public parts of the ship). She’s left her cloistered monastery (where the surrogates are kept away from all men) and is now missing – investigations found that the monastery was attacked and most of the sisters were killed except some in hiding who won’t talk.
First step in getting those sister’s to talk is to speak to their priest/monk/masochist/rebel friend, Alvis who manages to intimidate the guards/police rather menacingly. He does know where the woman is though, a safehouse, apparently in the Westerley Badlands – which is an odd definition of safe (we also get some world building on Badlands – basically polluted wastelands the company has left in its wake).
After piercing technological security and a lot of snark, they find the safehouse, the nuns and the surrogate, Constance (and Nuns with guns). There’s a brief confrontation before Dutch proves her credentials by being awesome, dangerous and not killing people (which the nuns think they’re there for – reasonably since some of the Nine want Constance dead).
Dutch goes with chief nun to explain what happened –including the massacre at the Abbey and that they really should leave before the same people find the safehouse (which is now happening since Dutch & co left a clear trail). The nun isn’t happy moving Constance because she’s having health problems and needs bedrest but Dutch insists. Especially when they’re attacked and all the security systems go down.
One of the sisters, Jenny, goes with John to secure the computer terminal – revealing she’s a talented engineer and how she became a surrogate (daughter of a farmer on Leith who couldn’t afford more daughters). We also get a nice insight into Leithian culture and how that relates to the noble Kresh that they’re so tied and subservient to; and how she gets paid a lot more as a surrogate than an engineer. John gets the security going but knows it was more than enough time for someone to get in
Dutch sends D’avin to protect the girls by being a “big muscly distraction” to keep them safe and calm. Especially since they’re there just for Constance, the rest of them are pretty much expendable. She also alludes to her past, growing up in a “royal harem” not unlike this. She calls them brainwashed and trained to seek approval – which will basically mean they’ll turn on each other. D’avin, surprisingly, is more sympathetic, expecting them to be really scared because not everyone is “as hard as Dutch” which is a point.
Dutch goes to see Constance who tells her that the baby she’s carrying is only considered legitimate if it’s born on Kresh – and she sharply calls out Dutch for being uninterested. Dutch is clearly not happy with the whole idea of the surrogacy collective and a little disdaining of its occupants.
She faces off against an intruder and tries to learn why he’s actually there (she offers bribery so she guesses they’re from the Nine by his angry rebuttal) and then breaks his neck. But he’s not alone – there are more outside with a captured sister – either they send out Constance or they will kill more women; they kill the sister they have.
Alas this sets the women to arguing and D’avin scolds them like they’re naughty children. And Constance has disappeared – the head sister has taken Constance and is going to offer her up. She’ already given several children to Kresh, she is clear how little she owes them and how all the “honour” of the “tradition” is just an elaborate way of controlling them and turning them into “broodmares.”
Dutch ambushes them and is not impressed by “Mother Inferior” – but it’s Constance who stabs her in the neck. Dutch goes to calm her down but Constance has hard words for her as well – Dutch has been judging them and calling them idiots since she arrived. Dutch praises her courage but also says she’s been manipulated and asks what Constance wants. Constance wants to be a Vessel – it’s her calling and it matters to her and neither Mother Inferior nor Dutch get a say in that
Oh and they have an armoury. A very impressive armoury. They hand out the guns to all the sisters who have been trained in them from their country upbringing. They also insist they stay together no matter what. Dutch also has a flamethrower. Dutch is happy.
When they find out the soldiers, for whatever reason, want Constance alive she decides to act as a shield for the others and, on adrenaline, she leads the charge. When one of them is hit, though, Jenny pretends to be Constance so she can get close enough to use a grenade – sacrificing herself for her sisters.
They get to the ship – and Constance goes into labour (John is the saddest of sad pandas over Jenny) and insists they get to Kresh – not Westerley despite being closer. Except when they reach Kresh politics kicks in – and they’re denied air-clearance
Dutch is not having this and contacts Delle – who is now deciding to cut off the whole deal. Dutch is not amused – Delle says Dutch failed them. Dutch is not having this, despite the whole issue of breaking the law on Kresh and making a Nine an enemy, Dutch finishes the job.
She tells John to enter Kresh airspace – with John waving their RAC status at the responding airforce (apparently even the Nine are leery about shooting down a RAC ship). The baby is born as they land. They get off the ship and are confronted by the guards with some quality snark. Dutch then introduces Constance and her new baby. Delle does not look happy nor do one of the Nine watching – but Delle has little choice but to welcome the newest member of the Nine.
As a consolation prize, Delle is the heir’s legal guardian which means she also overlooks that Constance breathed polluted Westerley heir (usually a disqualifier). Delle warns Dutch she made some enemies and forced her hand Dutch has an awesome saying in response “when your enemy has two faces, strike a deal with both.” She lays out the situation – Delle is good which means she’ll keep the kid safe, or she’s evil… so will keep the kid safe to have a chance at his lands. A deal with both faces. Delle is impressed and has a minion research her.
Back on the ship, Constance gets to stay on as the baby’s nanny which is her hope. She also plans to become a Guardian to coach other girls. She calls it an “honour” which Dutch rejects – but Constance says “it is what you make of it.” She wants to protect the vessels, especially after those women died for her.
As an aside, D’avin, now he’s a killjoy, decides to search for this doctor he’s looking for, Dr. Pim Jaeger only to trip the alarms that John laid for him. D’avin tries to avoid the subject and why he’s looking for her (he’s told Dutch more than John) and doesn’t want John’s help. Of course John decides to help anyway – though she has vanished and someone has cleared a lot of money to hide her path. And John insists that they involve Dutch as well since she’s family – with an added word that that means D’avin shouldn’t have sex with her as it will break their group dynamic.
It’s a small thing, but when Delle calls D’avin and Johnny Dutch’s lovers I actually like that she doesn’t correct her. She’s snarky and sarcastic because this woman’s made a huge assumption (also that D’avin and Johnny would harass Constance) but doesn’t bother denying it. Not because it’s untrue, but because she doesn’t care – if Delle or anyone else thinks Dutch is sleeping with the men then it doesn’t matter enough to Dutch to refute, she doesn’t consider it something that hurts her reputation or needs a response.
I don’t think we remotely needed the coy, innocent, flirty nuns with John and D’avin. If they have been sequestered away from all men then two armed strangers don’t strike me as something they’d welcome – certainly not making suggestive comments about loving brothers. How sequestered are they – because if they’re so sequestered Delle fears them even sharing a ship with a man then I’m not sure how useful the “big muscly distraction” would be either. Basically, “sequestered from all men” really shouldn’t be synonymous with “harem in waiting.” Nor did we need D’avin playing chiding patriarch to them – seriously it wasn’t only bad but given the complexity of the rest of the episode it stood out. Especially when those girls he was patronising all unleash quite a lot of badassery.
I think Dutch’s issues and past expressed through her almost contemptuous attitudes toward the sisters (countered by D’avin’s compassion) was interesting – it was an artful way of giving an insight into her past and how it shaped her. But there is a hint of the Exceptional Woman who doesn’t like other – especially more traditionally feminine, women though I think the attitude is carefully linked to her upbringing an experience.
We get a lot of wonderful conflict here. Obviously the surrogacy tradition is one that is heavily exploitative based on class with these much poorer women with, often, little choice being used to have babies by people who are much wealthier and more powerful. At the same time we have another hook – tradition being used to both justify and push these women into the monastery whether they want to or not – that’s two bindings and things that are nicely called out. At the same time, Dutch’s derision and borderline contempt for the women themselves and whether they find worth in what they do and who they are is also presented as shaky while we also see them having considerable devotion towards each other. Their exploitation is made clear, while at the same time we have a nice message that derision towards them for being exploited or respecting the tradition that leads to that exploitation is ill-directed. There’s both a clear indication that these women are being exploited and often having no choice with an equally clear rejection that they should be “rescued” when they don’t want to be, even if Dutch & co disagree with her choices. Special bonus goes to Constance demanding people listen to her rather than quiet her with platitudes.